By Kevin Zhang
The funeral for the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, was held on Saturday, with many Russians paying their final respects.
Thousands of mourners stood in line to quietly file past Gorbachev’s open casket, surrounded by honor guards and under the Russian flag in the Hall of Columns in the historic House of Unions.
The farewell ceremony at the House of Unions was followed with a closed funeral taking place at Novodevichy cemetery.
A Kremlin spokesperson had told news outlets that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be attending the funeral due to a “busy work schedule”.
However, security still had a heavy presence in central Moscow, with militarized police and vehicles stationed downtown.
Many of Gorbachev’s mourners paid their respects to his legacy and the freedom that he granted to Soviet citizens in the Soviet Union’s last years, despite many Russians still feeling anger towards him for hastening the fall of the Soviet Union. He remains an important figure for liberal Russians.
“I am here to pay tribute to a great man. He took on a burden that none of us could have and he should be remembered for that, despite what everyone says.” said Galina Ivanchenko, a mourner who was carrying a bouquet of carnations. She said that she hoped more Russians would pay him more respect in time.
After several hours, the casket was taken out of the hall, with a procession being led by Dmitry Muratov, a Nobel Peace prize winner and editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper that Gorbachev helped found, Novaya Gazeta. The coffin was then taken to Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery, where it was lowered into the grave accompanied by a military band playing the Russian national anthem and a gun salute. Gorbachev was buried next to his wife Raisa who had died from cancer in 1999.